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Demonic possession

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Demonic possession refers to the state of one being controlled, either directly, or indirectly, by a supernatural force, commonly of satanic origins. Symptoms of demonic possession commonly claimed by believers include missing memories, altered personalities, convulsions (i.e. epileptic seizures or "fits"), fainting, and spastic hand movements.[1]

The DSM-5 indicates that the variant personality states of dissociative identity disorder may be misinterpreted as possession in some cultures. Instances of demonic possession are often related to trauma-suggesting that mental distress could be a contributing factor.[2] There are concerns that medical attention may not be sought in time due to such misinterpretations.[3]

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  • ✪ The 5 Signs of Demonic Possession - PART 1
  • ✪ The 5 Signs of Demonic Possession - PART 2
  • ✪ Demonic Possession
  • ✪ The 5 Signs of Demonic Possession - PART 3
  • ✪ Ask the Exorcist: "What are the reasons of demonic possession?"



Cultural origins

Many cultures and religions contain some concept of demonic possession, but the details vary considerably. The oldest references to demonic possession are from the Sumerians, who believed that all diseases of the body and mind were caused by "sickness demons" called gidim or gid-dim.[4] The priests who practised exorcisms in these nations were called ashipu (sorcerer) as opposed to an asu (physician) who applied bandages and salves.[5] Many cuneiform clay tablets contain prayers to certain gods asking for protection from demons, while others ask the gods to expel the demons that have invaded their bodies.[citation needed]

Shamanic cultures also believe in demon possession and shamans performing exorcisms. In these cultures, diseases are often attributed to the presence of a vengeful spirit (or loosely termed demon) in the body of the patient. These spirits are more often the spectres of animals or people wronged by the bearer, the exorcism rites usually consisting of respectful offerings or sacrificial offerings.[citation needed]


Oppressions and possessions of the devil are considered by many religions to be evidence of the existence of demonic entities or evil spirits.[further explanation needed] The term oppression is used when the demon acts externally against the person whom it besets, and possession when it acts internally, agitates them, excites their ill humor, makes them utter blasphemy, speak tongues they allegedly have never learned, reveals allegedly unknown secrets to them, and apparently inspires them with obscure knowledge of philosophy or theology.[A 1]

Other claims include access to hidden knowledge and foreign languages (xenoglossy), drastic changes in vocal intonation and facial structure, the sudden appearance of injuries (scratches, bite marks) or lesions, and superhuman strength. Odd odors, lack of sensitivity to pain, and self-mutilation have also been reported.[6] Unlike in channeling, the subject has no control over the possessing entity and so it will persist until forced to leave the victim, usually through a form of exorcism.[citation needed]

Additionally, there is a form of monomania called demonomania or demonopathy in which the person believes that he or she is possessed by one or more demons.[7]

Abrahamic religions


Christianity holds that possession derives from the Devil, i.e. Satan, or one of his lesser demons. In Christianity, Satan and his demons are actually fallen angels.[8] In modern medicine, it is now suspected that an underlying cause of what sometimes appears to be demonic possession is actually anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.[9][10]

In the Christian Bible

The Old Testament

The Catholic Encyclopedia says that there is only one apparent case of demonic possession in the Old Testament, of King Saul, but it relies on an interpretation of the Hebrew word "rûah" as "evil spirit", an interpretation that is doubted by the Catholic Encyclopedia.[11] Others theologians such as Ángel Manuel Rodríguez say that mediums like the ones mentioned in Book of Leviticus 20:27 were possessed by demons.[12]

New Testament

The New Testament mentions several episodes in which Jesus drove out demons from persons. The 1902 work Demonic possession in the New Testament by Rev. William Menzies Alexander attempted to explain accounts of possession in the Synoptic Gospels, outlining their historical, medical and theological aspects.[13]


Catholic exorcists differentiate between "ordinary" Satanic/demonic activity or influence (mundane everyday temptations) and "extraordinary" Satanic/demonic activity, which can take six different forms, ranging from complete control by Satan or some demon(s) to voluntary submission:[14]

  1. Possession, in which Satan or some demon(s) takes full possession of a person's body without their knowledge or consent, so the victim is therefore morally blameless.
  2. Obsession, which includes sudden attacks of irrationally obsessive thoughts, usually culminating in suicidal ideation, and typically influences dreams.
  3. Oppression, in which there is no loss of consciousness or involuntary action, such as in the biblical Book of Job in which Job was tormented by a series of misfortunes in business, family, and health.
  4. External physical pain caused by Satan or some demon(s).
  5. Infestation, which affects houses, things, or animals; and
  6. Subjection, in which a person voluntarily submits to Satan or some demon(s).

In Hostage to the Devil, Malachi Martin describes a type of demonic attack called "familiarization". He writes:

True demonic or satanic possession has been characterized since the Middle Ages, in the Roman Ritual, by the following four typical characteristics:[17][18][19]

  1. Manifestation of superhuman strength.
  2. Speaking in tongues or languages that the victim cannot know.
  3. Revelation of knowledge, distant or hidden, that the victim cannot know.
  4. Blasphemous rage, obscene hand gestures, using Profanity and an aversion to holy symbols or relics.

The Bible indicates that people can be possessed by demons, but that the demons respond and submit to Jesus' authority:

It also indicates that demons can possess animals as in the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac:

Official Catholic doctrine affirms that demonic possession can occur as distinguished from mental illness, but stresses that cases of mental illness should not be misdiagnosed as demonic influence. Catholic exorcisms can occur only under the authority of a bishop and in accordance with strict rules; a simple exorcism also occurs during Baptism (CCC 1673).

Since Jesus is reported (in the New Testament) to have encountered people who were demonized and to have driven the "evil spirits" out of these demoniacs, Saint Hilary of Poitiers of the 4th century asserted that demons entered the bodies of humans to use them as if they were theirs, and also proposed that the same could happen with animals.[citation needed]


The literal view of demonization is held by a number of Christian denominations. In charismatic Christianity, deliverance ministries are activities carried out by individuals or groups aimed at solving problems related to demons and spirits, especially possession of the body and soul, but not the spirit as ministries like Ellel Ministries International, Don Dickerman Ministries and Neil T. Anderson explicitly teach that a Christian can not have demons in their spirit because the Holy Spirit lives there, though they can have demons in their body or soul due to inner emotional wounds, sexual abuse, satanic ritual abuse.[22] This is usually known as partial possession or demonic infestation, as opposed to outside demonic oppression which does not reside in any of the 3 parts of a person: body, soul, spirit.[citation needed]

The New Testament's description of people who had evil spirits includes a capacity for hidden knowledge (e.g., future events, innermost thoughts of the people around them) (Acts 16:16) and great strength (Act 19:16), among others, and shows those with evil spirits can speak of Christ (Acts 19:16, Mark 3:11). According to theologians[citation needed], demonic assault can be involuntary[14] and allowed by God to test a person, as seen in the Biblical figure Job, who was tormented by Satan as part of God's test. Involuntary demonic assault, according to these theologians, cannot be denied because this would imply the negation of the cases mentioned in the New Testament (12, some of them repeated in more than one Gospel). However, in the overwhelming majority of cases of alleged demonic possession in modern times, the victim can suffer due to any of a number of personal initiatives: occult practices, mortal sin, loss of faith, or psychological trauma, among others. Furthermore, Malachi Martin goes as far as to say " person can be Possessed without some degree of cooperation on his or her part," and "The effective cause of Possession is the voluntary collaboration of an individual, through his faculties of mind and will, with one or more of those bodiless, genderless creatures called demons."[23]

In Great Britain in previous centuries, the Christian church offered suggestions on safeguarding one's home. Suggestions ranged from dousing a household with holy water, placing wax and herbs on thresholds to "ward off witches occult," and avoiding certain areas of townships known to be frequented by witches and Devil worshippers after dark.[24][25] Afflicted persons were restricted from entering the church, but might share the shelter of the porch with lepers and persons of offensive life. After the prayers, if quiet, they might come in to receive the bishop's blessing and listen to the sermon. They were daily fed and prayed over by the exorcists, and, in case of recovery, after a fast of from 20 to 40 days, were admitted to the Eucharist, and their names and cures entered in the church records.[26]

T. B. Joshua, a Nigerian pastor, has one of the most prominent "deliverance" ministries, releasing hundreds of videos on YouTube and his Christian television station, Emmanuel TV, purporting to show individuals being "delivered" from apparent "demonic possession".[citation needed]


Various types of creatures, such as jinn, shayatin, 'afarit and ruh, found within Islamic culture, are often held to be responsible for demonic possession. Usually, Iblis, the leader of evil spirits, only tempts humans into sin by following their lower desires.[27][28] Though not directly attested in the Quran, the notion of jinn possessing humans is widespread among Muslims and also accepted by most Islamic scholars.[29] There are various reasons given as to why a jinn might seek to possess an individual, such as falling in love with them, taking revenge for hurting them or their relatives, or other undefined reasons.[30][31] Since jinn are not necessarily evil, they are distinguished from cultural concepts of possession by devils/demons.[32] In contrast, the shayatin are apparently inherently evil.[33] To prevent such entities from doing further harm, an exorcism is required.[citation needed] Since hadiths suggest, that the demons/devils whisper from within the human body, within or next to the heart, devilish whisperings (waswas) are thought of as a kind of possession.[34]


Antoine Augustin Calmet, a French Benedictine monk writing in the 18th century, commented that the Jews attributed the greater part of their maladies to the works of demons and were persuaded that demonic torments were a punishment for some crime either known or unrevealed.[A 2] He also states:[A 3]

Although the Jews were sufficiently credulous concerning the operations of the evil spirit, they at the same time believed that in general the demons who tormented certain persons were nothing else than the souls of some wretches, who, fearing to repair to the place destined for them, took possession of the body of some mortal whom they tormented and endeavored to deprive of life - Treatise on the Apparitions of Spirits and on Vampires or Revenants:not proper citation style


In traditional Buddhism, four metaphorical forms of "māra" are given:[35]

  • Kleśa-māra, or Ma̋ra as the embodiment of all unskillful emotions, such as greed, hate and delusion.(the Demons of delusions/defilement and unwholesome states)
  • Mṛtyu-māra, or Māra as death. (the Demons of the Lord of death)
  • Skandha-māra, or Māra as metaphor for the entirety of conditioned existence.(the Demons of contaminated aggregates)
  • Devaputra-māra, the deva of the sensuous realm, who tries to prevent Gautama Buddha from attaining liberation from the cycle of rebirth on the night of the Buddha's enlightenment.(the Demons of sons of deva Gods/desire and temptation)[36]

And in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, 50 types of skandha related demons (Fifty skandha-māras) been mentioned that can possess practitioners. Also flying demons from Devaputra-Mara can confuse the practitioner, make them and their students believe they have achieved Enlightenment, then mislead them to wrongdoings, wrong teachings, dangers, crisis and even death.[37]

In Buddhism, a demon can either be a being suffering in the hell realm[38] or it could be a delusion.[39]

A practitioner will go to the local Buddhist healer for treatment. The healer will commonly take their pulse and urine while offering counsel - the aim being to divine the origins of the patient's suffering. In the case of possession they will also prescribe actions to appease the demon, like giving away food and clothing in its name.[40] It is believed that the demon will depart to a different realm once this is done.[38]

Medicine and psychology

According to Augustine Calmet, several obsessions and possessions noted in the New Testament were simple maladies or fantastic fallacies which made it believed that such persons were possessed by the devil. The ignorance of the people maintained this prejudice, and their lack of contact with physicians and medicine served to strengthen such ideas.[A 2]

Those who profess a belief in demonic possession have sometimes ascribed to possession the symptoms associated with physical or mental illnesses, such as hysteria, mania, psychosis,[41] Tourette syndrome, epilepsy,[42] schizophrenia,[43] conversion disorder or dissociative identity disorder.[44] It is also not uncommon to ascribe the experience of sleep paralysis to demonic possession, although it's not a physical or mental illness.[45] The symptoms vary across cultures.[46] Demonic possession is not a valid psychiatric or medical diagnosis recognized by either the DSM-5 or the ICD-10.[47] The DSM-5 indicates that personality states of dissociative identity disorder may be interpreted as possession in some cultures, and instances of spirit possession are often related to traumatic experiences—suggesting that possession experiences may be caused by mental distress.[2] Some have expressed concern that belief in demonic possession can limit access to health care for the mentally ill.[3]

Notable cases

In chronological order:

Notable frauds

List of dissertations

See also


  1. ^ Ferber, Sarah (2004). "Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern France". London: Routledge: 25, 116. ISBN 0415212642. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ a b Hecker, Tobias; Braitmayer, Lars; Van Duijl, Marjolein (2015). "Global mental health and trauma exposure: The current evidence for the relationship between traumatic experiences and spirit possession". European Journal of Psychotraumatology. 6: 29126. doi:10.3402/ejpt.v6.29126. PMC 4654771. PMID 26589259.
  3. ^ a b Karanci, A. Nuray (2014). "Concerns About Schizophrenia or Possession?". Journal of Religion and Health. 53 (6): 1691–1692. doi:10.1007/s10943-014-9910-7. PMID 25056667.
  4. ^ Sumerian "gidim"
  6. ^ Sarchie, Ralph; Cool, Lisa Collier (2001). Beware the Night: A New York City Cop Investigates the Supernatural. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9781466834217.
  7. ^ Noll, Richard. (2006). The Encyclopedia of Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders. Facts On File Inc. p. 129. ISBN 0-8160-6405-9
  8. ^ "An Exorcist Tells his Story" by Fr. Gabriele Amorth translated by Nicoletta V. MacKenzie, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999.
  9. ^ Daniela J. Lamas, "When the brain is under attack", The Boston Globe, 27 May 2013.
  10. ^ "A Young Reporter Chronicles Her 'Brain On Fire'", NPR, 14 November 2012.
  11. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Demoniacal Possession" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  12. ^ Ángel Manuel Rodríguez, "Old Testament demonology." Ministry: International Journal for Pastors 1998 (7:6), pp. 5-7.
  13. ^ Alexander, William Menzies (2003). Demonic Possession in the New Testament. Kessinger Publishing.
  14. ^ a b p. 33, An Exorcist Tells his Story, by Fr. Gabriele Amorth, translated by Nicoletta V. MacKenzie; Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999.
  15. ^ Hostage to the devil : the possession and exorcism of five living Americans. Reader's Digest Press. ISBN 978-0-88349-078-5. Retrieved December 18, 2018.[page needed]
  16. ^ Malachi Martin, Hostage to the Devil, Harper, San Francisco, 1992, p. 260.[ISBN missing]
  17. ^ p.25, The Vatican's Exorcists by Tracy Wilkinson; Warner Books, New York, 2007
  18. ^ The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio; Doubleday, New York, 2009.
  19. ^ The Roman Ritual Translated by Philip T. Weller, S.T.D.; Copyright 1964
  20. ^ "Luke 4:33-37 (New International Version)". By Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  21. ^ "Luke 8 - The Healing of a Demon-possessed Man". By Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2011-02-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Martin, Malachi, Hostage to the Devil (San Francisco, Harper, 1992, preface p.xx.)
  24. ^ Broedel, Hans Peter (2003). The Malleus Maleficarum and the Construction of Witchcraft. Great Britain: Manchester University Press. pp. 32–33.
  25. ^ Barajo, Caro (1964). "World of the Witches". Great Britain: University of Chicago Press. p. 73.
  26. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Energici". Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 398.
  27. ^ Michael Anthony Sells Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Qurʼan, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings Paulist Press, 1996 ISBN 978-0-809-13619-3 page 143
  28. ^ Georges Tamer Islam and Rationality: The Impact of al-Ghazālī. Papers Collected on His 900th Anniversary, Band 1 BRILL 2015 ISBN 978-9-004-29095-2 page 103
  29. ^ Dein, S., & Illaiee, A. (2013). Jinn and mental health: Looking at jinn possession in modern psychiatric practice. The Psychiatrist, 37(9), 290-293. doi:10.1192/pb.bp.113.042721
  30. ^ Kelly Bulkeley, Kate Adams, Patricia M. Davis Dreaming in Christianity and Islam: Culture, Conflict, and Creativity Rutgers University Press 2009 ISBN 978-0-813-54610-0 page 148
  31. ^ G. Hussein RassoolIslamic Counselling: An Introduction to theory and practiceRoutledge 2015 ISBN 978-1-317-44124-3
  32. ^ Al-Krenawi, A. & Graham, J.R. Clinical Social Work Journal (1997) 25: 211.
  33. ^ Meldon, J. A. "Notes on the Sudanese in Uganda." Journal of the Royal African Society, vol. 7, no. 26, 1908, pp. 123–146. JSTOR,
  34. ^ Szombathy, Zoltan, “Exorcism”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. Consulted online on 15 November 2019 <> First published online: 2014 First print edition: 9789004269637, 2014, 2014-4
  35. ^ Buswell, Robert Jr; Lopez, Donald S. Jr., eds. (2013). Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 530–531, 550, 829. ISBN 9780691157863.
  36. ^ "4 Maras". LAMA YESHE WISDOM Archive.
  37. ^ Translated by Upasaka LuK'uan Yu (Charles Luk). Surgangama Sutra (PDF).
  38. ^ a b Hinich Sutherland, Gail. "Demons and the Demonic in Buddhism". Oxford Bibliographies. doi:10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0171. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  39. ^ "Tibetan Buddhist Psychology and Psychotherapy". Tibetan Medicine Education center. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  40. ^ Plakun (2008). "Psychiatry in Tibetan Buddhism: Madness and Its Cure Seen Through the Lens of Religious and National History". Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis & Dynamic Psychiatry. 36 (3): 415–430. ISSN 1546-0371.
  41. ^ Maniam, T. (1987). Exorcism and Psychiatric Illness: Two Case Reports. Medical Journal of Malaysia. 42: 317-319.
  42. ^ Pfeifer, S. (1994). Belief in demons and exorcism in psychiatric patients in Switzerland. British Journal of Medical Psychology 4 247-258.
  43. ^ Tajima-Pozo, K., Zambrano-Enriquez, D., de Anta, L., Moron, M., Carrasco, J., Lopez-Ibor, J., & Diaz-Marsa, M. (2011). "Practicing exorcism in schizophrenia". Case Reports.
  44. ^ Ross, C. A., Schroeder, B. A. & Ness, L. (2013). Dissociation and symptoms of culture-bound syndromes in North America: A preliminary study. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation 14: 224-235.
  45. ^ Beyerstein, Barry L. (1995). Dissociative States: Possession and Exorcism. In Gordon Stein (ed.). The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. pp. 544-552. ISBN 1-57392-021-5
  46. ^ Bhavsar, Vishal; Ventriglio, Antonio; Bhugra, Dinesh (2016). "Dissociative trance and spirit possession: Challenges for cultures in transition". Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. 70 (12): 551–559. doi:10.1111/pcn.12425. PMID 27485275.
  47. ^ Henderson, J. (1981). Exorcism and Possession in Psychotherapy Practice. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 27: 129-134.
  48. ^ Demonic possession of Elizabeth Knapp, Cotton Mather's widely cited report on the demonic possession of Elizabeth Knapp of Massachusetts (1701)
  1. ^ p.125
  2. ^ a b p.127
  3. ^ p.128

Further reading

  • Forcén, Carlos Espí; Forcén, Fernando Espí. (2014). Demonic Possessions and Mental Illness: Discussion of Selected Cases in Late Medieval Hagiographical Literature. Early Science and Medicine 19: 258-79.
  • Hartwell, Abraham (1599). A True Discourse Upon the Matter of Martha Brossier of Romorantin, pretended to be possessed by a Devil. 2018. ISBN 1987654439.
  • McNamara, Patrick, (2011). Spirit Possession and Exorcism: History, Psychology, and Neurobiology. 2 volumes, Praeger. Santa Barbara, California.
  • Westerink, Herman. (2014). Demonic Possession and the Historical Construction of Melancholy and Hysteria. History of Psychiatry 25: 335-349.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 November 2019, at 01:21
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